Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Edward Molyneux

Originally published on the Coletterie blog.

Captain Edward Molyneux (1894-1974) English

Photo by Edward Steichen, 1931.

Edward Molyneux was born in London of Irish parents. At age 17, he won a design competition held by British couturier Lucile and began sketching for her design house. During a stint in the British army from 1914-1917, where he earned the rank of captain, he was injured and lost sight in one eye. When he returned in 1919, he opened his own couture house in Paris and in time followed that with branches in Monte Carlo, Cannes, and in London.

Silk cocktail dress, 1950.

He was known for conservative, well-bred, fluid, elegant clothes with a pure uncluttered line. Even his evening dresses possessed simplicity and a touch of severity. His customers were never over- or under- dressed.

Synthetic evening gown, 1935.

In 1934, Princess Marina of Greece ordered her bridal gown and trousseau from Molyneux for her wedding to the Duke of Kent. This single commission made his reputation in royal social circles and his future clients would include the Duchess of Windsor and actress Merle Oberon.

Silk moirĂ© wedding gown, 1948. 

Wool utility suit, 1942.

In 1939, he relocated to his London branch offices. During WWII, Molyneux designed Utility clothing – garments that met the strict fabric ration laws set up during the war. He also provided clothing that could be used in films produced by the British film industry. In addition, he was commissioned, along with other British designers, to create uniforms for the women in the British Armed Forces.

Silk gown, 1932. 

He later reopened his Paris house in 1946 and at that time enhanced his business by adding furs, lingerie, hats, and perfume to his available products. In 1950, when the vision started to fail in his remaining eye, Molyneux decided to closed his Paris and London establishments and retire to Jamaica.

Vogue 1080.

Home Sewing Connection: Molyneux designed a few Vogue Paris Original Model patterns.

Gown with glass beads, 1949. 

His style, innovations, and influence on fashion:
  • Molyneux insisted that his staff wear pale gray uniforms the same shade as the walls in his salon.
  • He was known for printed silk suits with pleated skirts, capes with accents of bright hot pink and for the use of zippers to mold the figure.
  • Interestingly, Molyneux produced a fragrance in 1926 called Numero Cinq even though Coco Chanel’s very similarly named No. 5 was already in existence.
  • During the war, Molyneux turned over part of his profits to the UK National Defense.
Images: Metropolitan Museum of Art, V & A Museum Textiles and Fashion collection.

Sources: The Fashion Spot; Fashion: The Century of the Designer, 1900-1999 (1999) Charlotte Seeling.

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